AKRON, Ohio – After signing his scorecard for a second-round 69, Jason Day stopped and posed with wife, Ellie, and the Larry O’Brien trophy recently awarded to the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.
“It was great,” Day said. “LeBron James didn’t come and tackle us, so that was a neat thing.”
It was a reference to the head-on collision between James and Ellie when the Days were sitting courtside at a Cavs game in December.
Day, the World No. 1, has been bowling over his opponents with regularity on the PGA Tour. He’s had plenty of experience posing with trophies too, having won seven times in his last 19 starts dating to the 2015 RBC Canadian Open, and is positioned to win back-to-back World Golf Championships. He holds a 1-stroke lead over Sweden’s David Lingmerth, who posted a 3-under 67, the low round of the day, at the halfway point of the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club’s South Course.
Day is in front even though his game hasn’t fired on all cylinders. He joked that he “felt like a 10 marker” playing alongside fellow Aussie Adam Scott, who termed it his best ballstriking round in quite some time. Day’s short game came to his rescue with several deft chips and putts of 13 and 15 feet on the seventh and eighth holes, respectively, to keep his momentum.
“I can definitely get up-and-down sometimes out of a rubbish bin and make it look very, very easy, and then sometimes I can make the easiest things look very, very difficult,” he said.
Difficult about sums up how Firestone played on Friday. Day’s 36-hole score of 4 under matches the tournament high for a second-round lead with Tiger Woods in 2005. Only nine of 58 golfers in the field are under par. When asked how difficult the conditions were, William McGirt, the first-round leader who stumbled to 74 on Friday, replied, “On a scale of 10? 10. Trying to figure out the wind was impossible.”
“You had to really choose the right gust to hit on,” added Day, who said the tournament had taken on a U.S. Open feel.
Day assumed the lead with a 5-footer for birdie at the par-5 16th, and tacked on another at 17. His lead could’ve been larger, but he took three putts at the last.
At Day’s last two stroke-play victories, he sprinted to big leads – five ahead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and four ahead at The Players Championship – and then held on over the weekend. How will Day approach a much tighter leaderboard? “I think over the next two days it’s going to be very difficult for everyone,” Day said. “I would love to be able to give myself more opportunities, and if I can do that, hopefully I’m holding the trophy at the end of the week.”
Day, who won the WGC Dell Match Play in March, has said the Bridgestone Invitational trophy has long been on his radar. He made a similar statement before walking off with The Players in May. Which begged the question – is there a tournament he doesn’t want to win really badly? Day laughed at the insinuation.
“I’m just trying to win as much as I can. I want to win. I’m like Ricky Bobby,” Day said.
As Bobby, the Nascar stock car racing star of the movie Talladega Nights, so famously put it, “If you ain’t first, you’re last!”